As reported on 2ch’s Itai News Blog, Kinki University in Osaka is telling juniors they must take a job right outside of graduation in the traditional “shinsotsu saiyou” (新卒採用) system. Why? “Because there are no second chances.” (「２度とチャンスはありません。」) What about becoming a freeter? “Your life will come to nothing.” (「フリータやニートになっては，人生台無しです。」) Surely, waiting to apply a year or two after college, you could still get a job based on your qualifications, right? “Dead wrong. Society will not accept you. Why? Because those who did not start working right outside of graduation are leftovers and defective merchandise.” (「卒業してからでも大卒の資格で何とかなるわ…と思ったら大間違いです。 社会は受け入れてくれません。 何故なら，新卒で就職出来ていない人は落ちこぼれであり，欠陥品だからです。」)
All of the 2ch commenters of course agree with this harsh analysis, and the message does not conflict with the standard understanding of Japanese education/employment systems. Let’s face it: Perfectly ordered society and second-chances are opposites. The only way to enforce order is to guarantee that those going around the determined path will be permanently punished. The kid doesn’t even get the chance to cry “wolf” the first time? Problem solved. Taking a year off to study for Tokyo University exams is one thing, but taking a year off to think about what you would like to do for the rest of your life… might as well be treason.
As much as the post-Bubble period was host to greater “Americanization” of the economy, the rigid employment system is facing no serious challenge. In fact, with more and more companies creating two distinct classes of “regular” and “non-regular” workers, the shinsotsu system becomes crucial for determining who gets to join the upper middle classes and who gets to receive the same limp salary for 30 years — within the same companies, even. Successfully making it to a four-year university in the first place means you have access to a possible corporate track job, and clearly, Kinki U. does not want to see their young get swept out into the harsh winter colds from which there is no return.
One of Prime Minister Honest Abe’s big ideas for Japan is the “second chance initiative” for failed businesses. Students, however, may not be afforded that luxury. At least they will know at 22 whether their lives are total failures or not. Most people have to wait 40 years to find that out on their own.